It’s finally spring and April – a month our criminal justice community has dedicated as Second Chance Month. At JPO, we join our community in bringing attention to the importance of second chances and the need to ensure that those impacted by the criminal justice system gain opportunities to restore their voting rights, find employment, get a driver’s license, have their record(s) expunged, and more.
One way JPO backs our belief in second chances is through our support of treatment courts, which includes courts like veterans courts, mental health courts, and drug treatment courts. Treatment courts offer an alternative to incarceration and are a positive intervention for leading people living with substance use and mental health disorders out of the justice system and into recovery.
I started my criminal justice career as the assistant prosecutor in a treatment court in Little Rock, Arkansas. There, I saw first-hand how treatment courts serve as a second chance at life for individuals with mental health and substance use problems who wanted to change but didn’t have the means or strength to do so on their own.
We all need help at some point in our life, and the treatment court model, supported by our National Drug Court Resource Center, has a proven track record of successfully delivering second chances.
I strongly believe in second chances. I also believe in first chances and our constitutional rights to liberty when charged but not convicted of a crime. We must remember that the mass incarceration we have today is a result of our actions at the “front door” of the system, including profiling and unconstitutional pretrial detention. Decreasing the number of people entering the prison system and being unjustly detained in jails on the front end will mean more resources and support for those exiting the system upon completion of their sentence.
At JPO, we believe in a fair and equitable justice system for all. Our team works with justice system actors to restore a sense of dignity to individuals, families, and communities. We must take a holistic approach and apply innovative solutions all along the way – in pretrial, using treatment court interventions, and supporting those who have paid their debt to society – to help those whose lives have been impacted by the criminal and civil legal systems.
This month we will focus on second chances and what that means for everyone involved. My challenge to you is to carry the spirit of second chances throughout the entire year. Follow our posts about #SecondChanceMonth on our Twitter and Facebook.